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Myers, Rumsfeld Eye to Eye on Internationalizing Iraq Mission

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2003 – U.S. military leaders have no reason to try to "go around" civilian defense leaders to make policy, because Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other leaders take their generals' advice, the top American general said here today.

Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took to the airwaves today to refute a Washington Post article that contended he and Vice Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace conspired with Secretary of State Colin Powell to get President Bush to rule against Rumsfeld in requesting a U.N. resolution on Iraq.

"The article just totally mischaracterizes the process that we go through in this government to come to any sort of conclusion on any subject," Myers said in an impromptu press conference on the steps of the Pentagon.

The chairman explained that his charge, as well as that of the rest of the Joint Chiefs, is to give advice to senior civilian leaders, including Rumsfeld and the president. "They listen to our advice, and we have a great dialogue," Myers said. "Any hint that anybody in the United States military is going around the civilian chain of command to get things done is absolutely false."

Speaking at the State Department, Powell echoed the chairman's comments. "The (Washington Post) story can't be characterized as inaccurate, because it is absolute fiction total fiction," Powell said in a press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini. "It didn't happen, and there was no need for any such collusion."

At issue is the administration's seemingly changing course on wanting a U.N. resolution to provide a larger international security force in Iraq. Not so, Myers contends a large international presence has always been the U.S. goal in Iraq.

"You've heard the secretary say we want an international effort," Myers said. "(And) you've heard him say we have an international effort." The chairman noted there nearly 40 countries provide security forces in Iraq, and others provide forces and support in other areas.

Powell said the idea of a further Security Council resolution has been floating among national security officials for "many, many weeks."

Furthermore, Myers said, there was no reason for the Joint Chiefs to try to outsmart Rumsfeld and other defense civilian leaders, because he and the secretary have always agreed on this issue. "I don't think there has been any daylight (between) the secretary and myself on this issue," he said. "No daylight."

The issue of security in Iraq is complicated by the fact that the situation varies greatly from one region of the country to another. "In the south very stable; in the north very stable," Myers explained. "It's in the Baghdad area to Tikrit, that's where the issue is. So we can't say Iraq's security situation is all going to heck in a hand basket; that is not the situation."

Several factors lead to a need for more international troops, as opposed to increasing numbers of American forces. "It has a lot to do with the Iraqi people and how they perceive coalition forces in there," Myers said. "And I think the last thing we want is for them to believe this is a mission of the United States.

"It's much bigger than that. It already is an international effort, and we want it to be an international effort," he added. "It's so important for the international community to pull together on this."

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